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Senor Moments | Year of living desperately

In this year of living dangerously, desperately, oftentimes despairingly, during these times of the deadly, unseen foe let us continue to find out how people are coping.

First we have a Dabawenyo, born and raised in Malita, who now lives in San Francisco, California – and who is putting his distinctive artistic mark in that city.


Ole Johnson, our featured Dabawenyo visual artist now is making waves in the creative city of San Francisco, California. But he is one of ours, he even exhibited with us at Felcris Centrale last year in the exhibit: “SAVING DAVAO GULF”

Ole (ole, ole, ole on FB) is a member of the Johnson clan of Malita and Davao Occidental. One uncle (Jimmy) was known as CLAVILAZ, a professional boxing champion in the 60’s. Another Johnson was a town mayor, an AdD HS classmate of PRRD and Sec. Sonny Dominguez.

Here is Ole’s story – in his own words:

Ole was born in South Lamidan, Don Marcelino, Davao Occidental bt moved to SF in 2007. He went to Holy Cross Malita from GS to HS. Here – in his own words – is Ole’s art journey:

“Being a Filipino Artist is challenging, but it’s more challenging being an Artist in the US. In 2015, I decided to to start focusing on my God-given talent, which is making art. I started sculpting and drawing all my ideas that laid dormant for almost 10 yrs. I kept myself busy by creating art in my tiny room in San Francisco.

Ever since I was a kid, drawing and sculpting have always been something I was good at. I was always the one tasked to do art and other creative projects in school. I stopped making art after high school after my mother discouraged me from studying Fine Arts in college. I threw away my dream of becoming an artist and, just like most people, decided to choose a more secure path.

In 2016, after a year of making art, I produced enough art to build my portfolio. I started joining art submissions in San Francisco. I became a member of the Artist Guild of San Francisco, an art group founded in 1961 and composed of urban artists who exhibit their work in outdoor sites across San Francisco. I actively participated in weekend art exhibits and sold my art to people of different nationalities. Several of my artworks were chosen to be part of month long group art shows in the office of Senator Scott Weiner at the California State Building. I exhibited my work in the “Art Saves Lives” gallery in downtown San Francisco. The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) hospital, bought one of my abstract art and is now a part of their permanen collection in one of their new buildings dedicated for Cancer research. It was a very exciting year for me and i decided to pursue this as a my full-time job.

My art is a product of experimenting with new materials in an attempt to come up with an original piece of art. Most of my art are Abstract pieces and some 3D surrealism. On my last vacation in Davao, I took classes on oil painting at Art de Triumph under the mentorship of Rhodney Yap. So lately, I’ve been practicing how to paint the traditional way. My goal is to learn all the disciplines in the Arts.

My most recent painting is a 30×40 oil on canvas. Titled the “Devourer” , which depicts a human devouring all the animals and causing detrimental effects. A rather timely representation of the current predicament that the human race is currently battling with.”

As for this Señor, the writer, this lockdown has had some POSITIVE effects: first, FAMILY BONDING – forced-to-good for practically 24 hours so you do your best to distance socially, not because of CV but so you don’t get in each other’s hair! As an artist, it allows me to concentrate on my paintings. I’m able to create new artworks or to improve old ones. As a book-lover, no – make that as a lover of PRINTED materials – books, magazines, newspapers (sadly, NONE due to the lockdown), I have plenty of time to sit or lie down and READ, READ, READ. I have a library that I am re-arranging so I can find titles more readily. Now, I also have time to listen to my CD and DVD collection of movies, concerts, and music of the 50/60’s and beyond. And thank goodness for the INTERNET – the best ally of locked-down beings – which allows us to have virtual conversations with friend and to access music and news. I know that this LOCK DOWN which may last another 60 days has its downsides – plenty! But we need to find the positive – creative, interesting ways to do with our time, with our life.

You know this home lockdown gives me time to re-listen and view my favorite CDs and DVDs and to recall the first time I saw some of the performances on TV. I always watch the GRAMMYS. 2 of the most memorable were the duet of Natalie Cole, live on stage, with her father Nat “King” singing on video. “UNFORGETTABLE” the song and album of the 1992 Grammys (5 million sales!). But the one I truly treasure is the 1980 Grammy when Barbara Streisand on stage started singing the first lines of the “YOU DON’T BRING ME FLOWERS” a song nominated as a SINGLE. Then unannounced (and surprise!), a solitary figure could be seen walking down the aisle from the back – NEIL DIAMOND singing the next few lines, then both singing DUET! Brought the house down, people cheering, one of the most memorable moments indeed.

From my experience, very few performers can have that effect. One of them was ELVIS PRESLEY. I remember Sonny Pamintuan, Walter Lin and I flew in from SF to Las Vegas in 1972 for Elvis’s opening concert at the International Hotel. People were lined-up snaked around the gambling tables, waiting to get in like us (we already had tickets).

One can see this concert on DVD (or on YouTube) titled “THAT’S THE WAY IT IS”. Go see it – it’s great.

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